MONDAY, Jun 1 2009 — "Think" sloganeer / Insurance provider since 1850 / Norse race of gods / Suffix with ball
Monday, June 1, 2009
Constructor: John Farmer
Relative difficulty: Medium
THEME: "THE TONIGHT SHOW" (58A: With 59-Across, TV home for this puzzle's five featured TV personalities) - five full names of former and current "Tonight Show" hosts are placed throughout the grid
Word of the Day: Thomas H. INCE - "Now often forgotten [that's for sure], Thomas Ince was a giant in the early days of silent films. He began directing shorts in 1911 and was particularly known for his Westerns, many starring cowboy star William S. Hart [...] Ince is also known for his untimely 1924 death aboard the yacht of William Randolph Hearst; officially he died of heart trouble, but Hollywood rumor of the time suggested he had been shot by Hearst in a dispute over actress Marion Davies. [...] The Cat's Meow, a 2002 Peter Bogdanovich film based on the death of Ince, starred Cary Elwes as Ince and Kirsten Dunst as Marion Davies. [ELWES was clued via "The Cat's Meow" just a few days ago!]
Tonight will be CONAN O'BRIEN'S first night hosting the "Tonight Show" after the departure of Jay Leno, so this is a timely commemorative puzzle. What an amazing discovery it must have been to find that the first and last names of three of the hosts are identical in length to each other — you're half way to symmetry without even trying. The shuffling of the remaining answers to get them into symmetrical order is the really impressive feature of this puzzle. That, and, and then getting the whole extremely theme-dense grid to work at all. 66 squares, with no section of the puzzle free from the theme's influence. Every nook and cranny has at least one theme answer slicing through it. A fine construction for this momentous (to some) occasion. If you liked Jay, don't worry. NBC will be changing its name to "The Jay Leno" network and bringing safe, bland, and cheap "entertainment" to you @ 10pm every weekday. It's the scheduling move that inspired their new network slogan: "We Give Up." (They still have "The Office" and "30 Rock," so I can't revile them too much)
- 1A: With 66-Across, first in a series of live TV personalities (1954-57) (STEVE / ALLEN)
- 6A: With 65-Across, second in a series of five TV personalities (1957-62) (JACK / PAAR)
- 17A: Fifth in a series of five TV personalities (starting June 1, 2009) (CONAN O'BRIEN)
- 19A: With 22-Across, fourth in a series of five TV personalities (1992-2009) (JAY / LENO)
- 34A: With 35-Across, third in a series of five TV personailities (1962-92) (JOHNNY / CARSON) - rightly at the center of the grid.
To get this theme-dense beast to get up an run, some compromises had to be made to the overall quality of the non-theme fill. First, there are just a Ton of abbrevs. Too many to list. But the really noticeable problem areas were the Ohio region, where the utterly unMondayish and unknown (to me) INCE (29D: Early film director Thomas H. _____) abuts the very desperate partial A MEAN (24D: "He doesn't have _____ bone in his body"). AESIR isn't the most Mondayish of answers either (24A: Norse race of gods), but it should at least be familiar to constant crossworders. I once built an entire puzzle around the word AESIR - but after one rejection (a wonderful, helpful rejection from Patrick Berry), before I could get it resubmitted, a puzzle with the same basic concept got published in New York Sun [shakes fist at sky and shouts "Joon!!!!"] and so it's just sitting on my computer somewhere. I might publish it here someday. It was probably the most solid, least teetery puzzle I've constructed so far.
The other part of the puzzle that was manifestly not so hot was the far SW. My wife still isn't quite over her consternation at OON (61A: Suffix with ball). "OON? .... Really, OON? It's a suffix??" We first tried to guess what the suffix meant, and then tried to think of other words that used it. POLTROON? MAROON? PONTOON? Ooh, does it mean 'floating?' What does "OON" mean? OON over NOS is yuck, so it's a good thing the whole mess is shoved down in the corner, where few are likely to notice it (I didn't see it at all, for instance, as I dropped those 6-letter Downs 1-2-3).
- 40A: Scot's cap (tam) - part of a millinery sub-theme that also includes BEANIE (11D: Close-fitting cap) and STL (60D: Letters on a Cardinals cap)
- 43A: Despise (abominate) - a perfectly good word that no one ever uses. ABOMINATION, yes. ABOMINATE ... less so. "I abominate you!" Hard to take seriously.
- 4D: U.S. broadcaster overseas (VOA) - Voice of America. I started to write in USO at first...
- 10D: How quips are delivered (in jest) - true enough, and yet quips can (I think) be quite withering, where "IN JEST" implies a certain harmlessness or lack of seriousness.
- 52D: Insurance provider since 1850 (Aetna) - had the "A" and went with ... AFLAC. Spokesduck!
- 50A: Taunt (gibe at) - as in "let's go GIBE AT that guy we ABOMINATE"
Signed, Rex Parker, King of CrossWorld
My write-up of today's LAT puzzle is here.